Section 217 of the US Patriot Act


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Here is a verbatim copy of the controversial US Patriot Act Section 217. Below that are some more readable versions.

Here is a verbatim copy of the US Patriot Act Section 217. Below that are some more readable versions.

Source: US Government Printing Office – PDF


SEC. 217. INTERCEPTION OF COMPUTER TRESPASSER COMMUNICATIONS.

Chapter 119 of title 18, United States Code, is amended–

(1) in section 2510–

(A) in paragraph (18), by striking ”and” at the end;

(B) in paragraph (19), by striking the period and

inserting a semicolon; and

(C) by inserting after paragraph (19) the following:

”(20) ‘protected computer’ has the meaning set forth in section 1030; and

”(21) ‘computer trespasser’–

”(A) means a person who accesses a protected computer without authorization and thus has no reasonable expectation of privacy in any communication transmitted to, through, or from the protected computer; and

”(B) does not include a person known by the owner or operator of the protected computer to have an existing

contractual relationship with the owner or operator of the protected computer for access to all or part of the protected

computer.”; and

(2) in section 2511(2), by inserting at the end the following:

”(i) It shall not be unlawful under this chapter for a person acting under color of law to intercept the wire or electronic communications of a computer trespasser transmitted to, through, or from

the protected computer, if–

”(I) the owner or operator of the protected computer authorizes the interception of the computer trespasser’s communications on the protected computer;

”(II) the person acting under color of law is lawfully engaged in an investigation;

”(III) the person acting under color of law has reasonable grounds to believe that the contents of the computer trespasser’s communications will be relevant to the investigation;

and

”(IV) such interception does not acquire communications other than those transmitted to or from the computer trespasser.’

 

Talk about obscure, and we thought Microsoft jargon was hard to penetrate.

Happily there’s an easier way. Cornell University has a version of 18 USC Chapter 119 that appears to include the above amendments in a readable text.

They also have 18 USC 1030 which includes the crucial definition of ‘protected computer” in (e), 2 .


(2)the term “protected computer” means a computer–

(A)exclusively for the use of a financial institution or the United States Government, or, in the case of a computer not exclusively for such use, used by or for a financial institution or the United States Government and the conduct constituting the offense affects that use by or for the financial institution or the Government; or

(B)which is used in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce or communication, including a computer located outside the United States that is used in a manner that affects interstate or foreign commerce or communication of the United States;

Section (B) is the wording which is considered to give US authorities access to computers operated or controlled by US companies regardless of location.

‘Protected computer’ seems to be an extreme euphemism. The law hardly ‘protects’ either the computer or its content. In fact the opposite is true, the law explicitly removes legal barriers to getting data from the so-called ‘protected’ computer.

 

Trivia: the US ‘Patriot Act’ is really called “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001”. How’s that for a long-winded title? You can get a full copy here.

 

Most of the talk is about the Patriot Act but there are also sections of the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Protect America Act to consider.

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